Surface Warfare Officer


Job Description

While the U.S. Navy has the most technically and tactically advanced defense and war-fighting capabilities on land, in the air, and under the sea, the mainstay of the force is the vast fleet of aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, dock landing ships, and other surface vessels. These ships and their crews are commanded and managed by an elite group of ship drivers and ship fighters – the Navy’s Surface Warfare Officers. If you’re up for the challenge of inspiring a ship’s crew and being at the helm of million-dollar high-tech equipment, accelerate your life as a Surface Warfare Officer.

What Will You Do?

Surface Warfare Officers are involved in virtually every aspect of Navy missions. Antisubmarine warfare, antiair warfare, antisurface warfare, land attack, theatre air missile defense, support for Marine Corps and Navy Special Warfare (SEAL) missions, communications, damage control, and shipboard management all rely on the knowledge and expertise of Officers in the Surface Warfare community. During a sea tour, Surface Warfare Officers may be in charge of any number of shipboard operations and activities and may work with or within the following forces:

  • Aircraft Carrier Forces: Provide and coordinate air defense from conventional and nuclear-powered carriers
  • Cruiser-Destroyer Forces: Provide ship attack and defense measures with a wide array of missile and fire power capabilities providing antiair, submarine, and surface warfare support
  • Amphibious Forces: Embark and transport vehicles, cargo, and troops for amphibious assault operations
  • Combat-Logistics Forces: Provide combatant ships with fuel, ammunition, food and supplies, and provide repair, maintenance, and rescue capabilities through fleet support ships
  • Mine Warfare Forces: Detect, identify, and neutralize threats to maritime forces from hostile use of mines

Shore duty may involve a tour-of-duty at the Pentagon, a student assignment at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, or command and management positions at shore bases and stations across the globe.

Earn While You Learn

As a Navy Officer, education and training is an integral and ongoing part of your career. You will likely have the opportunity to earn advanced degrees. You can also take advantage of the Navy’s Tuition Assistance Program, which pays a percentage of accredited college courses and programs. If you become a Surface Warfare Officer, the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California is also an attractive tour-of-duty option, which allows you to earn a master’s or doctorate degree.

Special Pay/Bonuses

Following three years of duty at sea, Surface Warfare Officers earn additional sea pay. Upon selection to department head, Surface Warfare Officers can earn up to $50,000 in bonuses for signing on an additional five-year-split (two different ships) sea tour as a department head.

Skills and Training

There are a few ways to become a Navy Officer. Enrolling in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) or the U.S. Naval Academy are two paths toward gaining a commission. Other prospective Officers attend Officer Candidate School (OCS), a 12-week Navy orientation school in Newport, Rhode Island. OCS prepares you for the roles and responsibilities expected of and afforded to U.S. Navy Officers through academic and military courses and physical fitness training. Course subjects include Navy operations, orientation, and administration, Navy history, strategic deterrence and sea control, shipboard management, combat systems, ship control, and surface ship fundamentals.

Your initial sea tour lasts a total of 27 months, including time at sea and in port. The ship will have an organized Surface Warfare Officer training program that helps you complete Personnel Qualifications Standards (PQSs) and qualify as a Surface Warfare Officer. Your initial duty will most likely be as a Division Officer in operations, engineering, combat systems, or deck departments.

Career Outlook

Training as a Surface Warfare Officer directly transfers to civilian careers in executive-level management as well as many technology and high-tech specialty systems. Each year, a select few candidates for the Surface Warfare program are offered a chance to specialize in Information Technology (IT), Oceanography, or Engineering Duty Officer (EDO). If you have skills or interest in these fields, you may qualify for these exciting careers.